Can you travel to Scotland? Covid-19 Update [March 2021]

can you travel to scotland update

Keep yourself and others safe- remember to check the government guidelines and plan ahead before you travel. Maintain social distancing and always carry a face mask. Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may get a wee commission (which I’m super grateful for) at no extra cost to you.

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Updated once a week. Last updated: March 1, 2021.

A question I am asked almost every day is when can you travel to Scotland?

I know that the latest information from official sources can be hard to digest and it often raises more questions- so I have done the hard work for you and trawled the internet to present you with the most up-to-date information in an easily digestible way.

Please note information can change daily, and the most up-to-date information will always be on the Scottish Government and NHS websites. I have provided links to the official sources below. Be sure to check your own government travel advisories for updated information too.

This article is intended for overseas visitors planning a trip to Scotland but there is information that locals will find useful. There is also helpful information here for those who need to get to Scotland for essential purposes [such as visiting a sick relative, moving home or for other personal reasons].

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If you spot any errors in this post, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article and I’ll amend it. If you have any questions, please ask these in the comments too and I can update this post.

? Latest Information ?

Update 23/02/21: The Scottish Government are hoping to lift the Level 4 Stay at Home restriction on April 5th. The reopening of the economy [including bars, restaurants, hairdressers and gyms] will hopefully begin at the end of April. More information on this will be released mid-March. The moves out of lockdown will take place in three-week blocks, however the Government are following the data so if cases go up, restrictions won’t be eased, and if cases continue going down the easing of restrictions may accelerate.

From March 15th, up to four people from two households can meet outdoors.



Mainland Scotland currently has a stay at home notice. This means Scotland residents stay at home except for essential purposes. This notice has been in place since December 26, 2020.

Some islands are at Level 3 [see below for level descriptions]. They are: Orkney, Shetland, Coll, Colonsay, Erraid, Gometra, Iona, Islay, Jura, Mull, Oronsay, Tiree, Ulva, all islands in the Highland area except the Isle of Skye.

Covid-19 rates are going down in Scotland and the rest of the UK. This is most likely due to the current strict lockdown.

The current situation in Scotland: What’s open and what’s closed

If you’re curious about what the current situation is in Scotland, I’ve summarized the main points. There is a mixture of information for locals and those planning a trip. This section will be updated regularly as things change.

What’s closed

  • Pubs and restaurants are closed until further notice
  • Tours, attractions, museums, and activities are closed until further notice
  • Schools are currently closed [they are open for children of key workers and vulnerable children only]
  • All holiday accommodation is closed to tourism. Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering open for essential customers only. Leaving your home in Scotland to go on holiday is not permitted.

What’s open

  • Parks and gardens are open for local exercise
  • Essential shops [such as supermarkets, pharmacies etc]

Arriving in the UK

  • Everyone who arrives in Scotland must provide proof of a negative Covid test taken within 36 hours before arriving in Scotland.
  • Passengers arriving in Scotland have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a room at one of six designated hotels. It’s £650 for an additional adult or a child over 12, and £325 for a child aged 5 to 12.
  • Passengers will have to have two covid tests while in managed isolation on day two and day eight. These need to be pre-booked before you arrive in the UK or you may face a £500 fine.
  • Passengers arriving in England from a country that is not on the red list can isolate at home for 10 days [you will still need a Covid test on day two and day eight]
  • Being vaccinated does not change the rules

Rules while in Scotland

  • Remember the FACTS: wear a face covering, avoid crowded places, clean your hands regularly, maintain two metre social distancing at all times, self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.
  • No in-home socialising [except if you are helping a vulnerable person]
  • A maximum of 2 people, aged 12 and over, can meet outdoors for exercise
  • You must work from home if possible
  • You can only leave your home [or garden] for an essential purpose [for example, to get groceries, for outdoor exercise, walking the dog etc]
  • You cannot leave the region you live in Scotland, but you can travel up to five miles past the border for outdoor exercise. For a list of essential reasons for travel, click here.

The 5-tier system

Scotland has 5 Protection Levels [or tiers] to help control the virus. Each area in Scotland is allocated a different tier depending on the prevalence of the virus across Scotland. You can see what tier each area in Scotland is in here.

Here’s a brief overview of each tier:

Level 4 – Lockdown

Level 4 is essentially a lockdown order to stay at home. For stay at home guidance, click here.

  • Accommodation is closed for tourism and only open for essential travel
  • Restaurants are takeaway only
  • No in-home socialising; maximum of 2 people from separate households allowed to meet outside
  • No use of public transport except for essential travel
  • Visitor attractions closed
  • Parks and gardens open for exercise

Level 3 – Very High

  • Accommodation open for work or leisure purposes within your own Level 3 area
  • No in-home socialising
  • Restaurants open but must close at 6pm [no alcohol being served]
  • 6 people from up to 2 households can meet indoors at a restaurant/cafe
  • 6 people max can meet outdoors from 2 households
  • Essential travel only to/from level 3 or 4 areas in Scotland and to/from rest of UK
  • Visitor attractions/shopping open with safety measures in place
  • Parks and gardens open for exercise

Level 2 – High

  • Accommodation open
  • No in-home socialising
  • Restaurants open but must close at 8pm [alcohol only served with meal]
  • 6 people from up to 2 households can meet indoors at a restaurant/cafe
  • 6 people max can meet outdoors from 2 households
  • Essential travel only to/from level 3 or 4 areas in Scotland and to/from rest of UK
  • Visitor attractions/shopping open with safety measures in place
  • Parks and gardens open for exercise

Level 1 – Medium

  • Accommodation open
  • No in-home socialising
  • Restaurants open but must close at 10.30pm
  • 6 people from up to 2 households can meet indoors at a restaurant/cafe
  • 6 people max can meet outdoors from 2 households
  • Essential travel only to/from level 3 or 4 areas in Scotland and to/from rest of UK
  • Visitor attractions/shopping open with safety measures in place
  • Parks and gardens open for exercise

Level 0 – Nearly Normal

  • Accommodation open
  • Restaurants open but must close at 10.30pm
  • 8 people from up to 3 households can meet indoors
  • 6 people max can meet outdoors from two households
  • Essential travel only to/from level 3 or 4 areas in Scotland and to/from rest of UK
  • Visitor attractions/shopping open with safety measures in place
  • Parks and gardens open for exercise
Visit Scotland’s response to Covid-19

My personal take on when Scotland will be open for tourism

The short answer is- I don’t know.

The long answer is this- personally, I don’t think Scotland will be ready for international tourists in 2021. I am hoping this may be different in 2022. This is just my personal opinion- so please take it with a pinch of salt.

Scotland may be ready for international tourism later in the year, but I highly doubt it. First Scotland needs to allow its residents to move freely around the country before we welcome tourists, and since Scotland is still currently under a harsh lockdown, I personally do not know when this will happen.

Any talk about a vaccine passport is hearsay because experts don’t yet know what the world will look like once the vaccinations have reached everyone.

My advice is this: keep Scotland in your heart, keep researching and planning your dream trip. It is up to you whether you want to book for 2022 or beyond- just make sure you research cancellation policies and understand you may lose money if an operator shuts down.

Tips

  • Be wary of hearsay- there are people who ”swear” Scotland will be open for tourism soon, however, these claims are false because nothing official has been released PLUS the new highly contagious variant of Covid-19 is unpredictable- therefore making it impossible to accurately predict when tourism will open up in Scotland. Do not listen to these people- when Scotland is open for tourism is anyone’s guess.
  • When making NEW bookings for accommodation and tours, be sure to check their cancellation policy. When I booked accommodation in New Zealand I used Airbnb because many of the properties had a flexible, fully-refundable policy from 14 days to a few days leading up to the booking. Each property varies, so ensure you check for each one.
  • If you have existing bookings, check your cancellation policies for each activity, write down the deadlines and stick them on your fridge so you don’t forget to cancel or extend and lose your money.
  • When travel does open up again, be sure to book ahead of your visit. A lot of businesses will not accept walk-ins. If you have a pay a deposit, make sure you know their refund policy.
  • To see a graph on the current number of Covid-19 in Scotland, just Google ”Covid 19 in Scotland” and a graph will come up with the daily

Websites for up-to-date information

Scottish Government website: The first place to check is the Coronavirus in Scotland page.

NHS [National Health Service]: For up to date information on what to do if you are in Scotland and have symptoms or need to book a test, visit the NHS website.

News: For the latest news in Scotland, I recommend following the BBC.

Visit Scotland: Visit Scotland also has a page with helpful information and updates on the Covid-19 situation in Scotland.

How you can experience Scotland from home

  • Read my blog! There are tons of free articles on this website about Scotland that will help you with planning your dream trip, or to simply keep Scotland in you mind. This really helps me as a small business struggling to get through Covid!
  • Read these books about Scotland. One of the best forms of escapism is through a book! I made a list of my favourite books about Scotland- these should keep you going for a while.
  • Re-watch Outlander. I know I am!
  • Join my Scotland community, Secrets of Scotland. Each month members get access to my Scotland vlog, bonus blog posts, podcast episodes, workshops and virtual tours!
  • Test your knowledge with my Scotland Quiz! You can even use it to host your own Zoom quiz night with your pals.

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ABOUT YVETTE

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Hello, I’m Yvette and I’m from New Zealand. In 2016 I left home to travel the world; I met my husband after hiking the length of Scotland, and now we live in a wee Scottish village with our pup, Angus. I’m a full-time blogger and travel Scotland for a living! Read more about me here.

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2 thoughts on “Can you travel to Scotland? Covid-19 Update [March 2021]”

  1. Wow ! What are great rundown in current facts, and your opinions. Very very appreciated ! For as harsh as it is, at least Scotland is dealing with it ! If we could only do that here in the US. I’ve been strictly isolating myself, and I’m so ready to travel…anywhere. If the world could be as dedicated to stomping out Covid as Scotland /the UK, it would all be over that much more quickly. Thank you again for the post, addresses, and suggestions.

    1. Yvette Webster

      You’re very welcome 🙂 I hope it’s stomped out soon too

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